Natasha Watley: An athlete to know

Natasha Watley: An athlete to know

The Women’s 2021 Women's College World Series begins today (here’s the bracket!), so what better time to discuss an athlete to know: Natasha Watley, a U.S. softball great and world champion who led UCLA to its own WCWS title in 2003.

Watley is a two-time Olympian, winning gold in 2004 and silver in 2008 with the U.S. national softball team, and the first Black player to compete for the team for an Olympic games. Watley played shortstop and first base and her batting average is still among NCAA leaders. Read more of her stats here.

The California native began playing softball at five years old before going on to become one of the most decorated softball players in this country. She attended UCLA, where she was a 4-time All-American and she was a 7-time All-Star as a professional. She’s competed in the Japan Softball League and National Pro Fastpitch League. She retired in 2017. Now, she’s a motivational speaker, coach, non-profit founder, ambassador and more.

Her foundation aims to provide “underserved girls with opportunities to play.” She has a list of drills up on her YouTube channel. The Natasha Watley Scholarship for Social Change was created a scholarship for Black coaches. In the U.S., 8.2 percent of Division I softball players are Black.

“As a Black woman in this sport I realize that we are hugely underrepresented,” Watley said in the scholarship announcement.

“Softball has gifted me so much and I know it can do the same for other Black athletes and coaches in the sport.”

Watch More:

A HighlightHER video series: Hitting Home: Diversity in Softball

The American Athlete - Natasha Watley

Read more:

ESPN’s feature on her retirement

‘We can’t be silent’: Black voices in softball have begun a culture shift in the sport

These Black Softball Players Are Done With Stereotypes, Microaggressions, and Being Ignored